Five Elements of Effective B2B Buyer Personas

Posted on February 10, 2014

The concept of buyer personas has been hot the past several years and I’ve also blogged about why they are important while also connecting the concept of the customer decision journey (CDJ) that McKinsey & Company popularized in 2010.  As we begin 2014, the buyer persona and the CDJ appear to be on a collision course as marketers now seek to combine these insights into a single, more powerful persona.

In addition to adding CDJ insights, marketers are adding more context to describe how, why and when B2B buyers are making their purchase decisions. So demographic and psychographic buyer attributes that were once considered the essence of B2B buyer personas are now being thought of as buyer profile information, as the “new and improved” B2B buyer personas now include the following:

  1. Buyer Profile (company attributes, buyer role/group, pain points, motivators, validators)
  2. Buying Trigger (what causes the buyer to enter the market for your product/service)
  3. Buyer Journey (steps, trusted media)
  4. Decision Criteria (list, priority)
  5. Desired Outcome (expectations the buyer will fulfill by purchasing the solution)

Organizations like Bulldog Solutions and others were early into the buyer persona game to help B2C companies build personas and add lead scoring and other insights to the mix.  Other consultants have come along that have added their own elements to the buyer persona as well as apply their own techniques to extract the insights (purely qualitative interviews, quantitative surveys + qualitative interviews, etc.) All will tell you that the pitfall to avoid is over-thinking the process and creating too many personas that ultimately never get applied to your marketing.

After viewing multiple persona templates and being part of primary buyer persona research, I believe the 5 elements noted above represent the core insights that any marketer will need to create a messaging and demand generation strategy.  One of the biggest challenges marketers face is how to collect this information so that their ongoing CRM data becomes richer and subsequent lead nurturing (based on persona type and CDJ stage) can become more accurate.

While primary research is effective at uncovering insights into all 5 elements of the buyer persona, it is essential to coordinate efforts with the Sales organization to ensure they are entering this information into their CRM records once they engage Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) to validate persona assumptions and lead scoring.  While it is not necessary for the Sales team to ask a prospective buyer to articulate their entire decision journey (most won’t recall it accurately anyway), asking buyers to affirm what triggered their search (element #3), background information about their current situation (element #1), decision criteria (#4) and ultimately what the buyer hopes to achieve with their new solution (element #5) are very reasonable information discovery items.

This information becomes even more important as Marketing and Sales collaborate to review win/loss analysis for deals to identify buyer attributes for the optimal profile deals that are being won and lost.  Marketing can use this information to update persona attributes, messaging and engagement tactics while Sales can update how they position and sell to these personas.  Even keyword strategies for SEO, PPC and content marketing can be tweaked based on improved understanding of how, why and when B2B buyers are making their purchase decisions.

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